The Comedy Store
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Long-running proving ground for top comedy talent
The Comedy Store first opened its doors in 1979, after founder Don Ward was inspired by New York and LA’s famous comedy clubs and the treasure troves of comedic talent ushered forth from their stages. In a bid to find new talent, Ward placed an ad in the paper for bored 9-5 office workers who secretly harboured dreams of being a comedy superstar. The first respondent was Alexei Sayle, a man whose furious anti-establishment rants would make him host for three years and an enduring symbol of 80s England’s new wave of comedy.
Comedy nights would start at midnight (once the strip club upstairs was closed) and sometimes run on until 4am. New acts had five minutes and a gong to tell them when to get off. Early stars included French and Saunders, Rik Mayall, Ade Edmundson, Keith Allen, Robin Williams, Paul Merton, Clive Anderson and Ben Elton.
Over the years, new innovations placed The Comedy Store at the forefront of British Comedy. Mike Myers (of Wayne’s World and Austin Powers fame) kickstarted The Comedy Store players, while the topical panel show was pioneered by The Edge, which counts big names from Bill Bailey to Eddie Izzard amongst its alumni and predated even Have I Got News For You by six months.
With the original only growing in popularity, The Comedy Store branched out and opened a Manchester premises on Deansgate Locks in 2000. A third Store in Bournemouth followed in 2006.
In 2021, The Comedy Store announced its official reopening post-COVID with shows in venues in Maidstone, Wellingborough, Bridport, Bournemouth, Colchester and Leeds.